Step Right Up: JJ Doom
Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry
JJ Doom is the new collaboration between DOOM (formerly MF Doom) and producer/rapper Jneiro Jarel. The debut album is entitled ‘Key To The Kuffs’ and it’s the sound of two artists at the peak of their powers. The peerless rapping of DOOM combines perfectly with Jneiro Jarel’s slick production. The result is a compelling hip hop venture that must be heralded as one of DOOM’s finest projects to date. That is a massive statement when you consider the wealth of awe-inspiring records he has created over the last decade. DOOM, the masked rapper, is one half of Madvillain (Madlib being the other half), whose album ‘Madvillainy’ was undoubtedly one of the best hip hop albums of the 00’s. Released in 2004, songs like ‘Great Day Today’, ‘Figaro’, ‘Accordion’, ‘Money Folder’ and ‘All Caps’ became anthems for the hip hop underground.
Two years later, MF Doom and Dangermouse’s ‘The Mouse And The Mask’ album quickly became another milestone in DOOM’s catalog. Danger Mouse whipped up some beats full of horn samples, piano and trombones, and DOOM came up with the rhymes to match. The results were staggering. The latest project of JJ Doom stands tall amongst the best of DOOM’s works, which is a testament to the strength of ‘Key To The Kuffs’.
Special guests that feature on ‘Key To The Kuffs’ include Damon Albarn of Blur and Gorillaz fame, Portishead’s Beth Gibbons and Goodie Mob’s Khujo Goodie. The first taste of JJ Doom came in the form of lead single, ‘Guv’nor’ released earlier this year. The opening lyrics are some of the finest of DOOM’s rhymes; ‘Catch a throatful/From the fire vocaled/Ash and molten glass like/Eyjafjallajˆkull/The volcano out of Iceland’. The fast paced rhymes of DOOM are projected over Jarel’s fresh beats, complete with slick guitar, a deep groove and looped samples. The pristine vocals of DOOM on display here brings me back to the moment I first heard DOOM’s unique rapping rhymes. ‘Great Day Today’ was the track, which was the remixed version by Four Tet. The track blew me away, hearing MF Doom’s rhymes over Four Tet’s distinctive flourishes of drums and electronics. That same spark can be heard on ‘Guv’nor’, a perfect introduction to JJ Doom.
‘Banished’ continues proceedings with a chill out groove and looped female vocals. The song is too damn good, some of DOOM’s best rhymes are put to tape here: ‘It’s all love/Rhyme with more dough/Remind me of a fine wine time raw flow’ and ‘Put your bullshit facial recognition on fritz!’ Damon Albarn guests on ‘Bite The Thong’. Albarn’s vocals are put in the background of the mix, laden with pumping beats and etchings of dub stylings. ‘Bite The Thong’ is where ‘JJ Doom go pop’, whose ‘been flipping beats since Casio Bossa Nova’. Another highlight is ‘Retarded Fren’, a new version of DOOM’s collaboration with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Johnny Greenwood.
My personal highlight is undoubtedly ‘Winter Blues’, an irresistible sombre track guided by Jarel’s mix of cinematic strings, piano and yearning lyrics from DOOM. ‘Winter Blues’ is one of the best songs that either artist have created. ‘Ask me where the hell I been soon as I felt her skin/Holdin’ hands, feet in the sand, grounded/Starin’ in them pretty brown eyes astounded’. A hip hop love song with a vivid directness, that is flowing in beautiful melancholy. Beth Gibbons guests on ‘GMO’. Fresh production from Jarel provides the backdrop for DOOM’s prose and Gibbon’s otherworldly vocals. The song is steeped in wonderful detail, from the strum of an acoustic guitar, to an array of samples and gorgeous strings. DOOM is concerned with our daily diet in the modern age, ‘What’s that in your melon? And what the hell is they sprayin’? No tellin’ Barium, strontium, aluminium’.
‘Key To The Kuffs’ is awash with both lyrical and musical highlights. ‘Dawg Friendly’ contains a thudding bass and a cool jazz vibe, and the outro morphs into psych-electronica laden with compelling beats. ‘Borin Convo’ finds one of the best of DOOM’s rhymes, ‘like everyday the same songs played at the radio station, they need to change the compilation.’ The entire indie world would agree to this sad but true fact. ‘Borin Convo’ breathes with spoken word samples, hazy beats and a slow groove. ‘Bout The Shoes’ heads into a soulful strut of Stax and Motown sounds. The chorus of ‘And you love it, you love it’ is sung in a joyous gospel refrain, that recalls The Roots and ‘Plastic Beach’ era Gorillaz. ‘Viberian Sun Part II’ is an instrumental cut, full of blissed-out electronica and ambient touchstones echoing the sounds of Bonobo.
To voice the words of DOOM on the close of ‘Guv’nor’, ‘JJ for Governor’ rings true. ‘Key To The Kuffs’ is the best hip hop album of 2012.
‘Key To The Kuffs’ is out now on Lex Records.